Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us and I am compelled to SHOUT OUT and CELEBRATE the most powerful moment I shared with a teacher on my team this school year. The two of us were in my office processing a playground situation with a group of students. The situation among them was escalating outside on the playground and in the lunchroom; however, the disagreements and uncomfortableness among the peers were never represented in the classroom.
Both of us listened intently to the students, seeking first to understand all sides and perspectives… Then, we asked why do you feel this never happens in the classroom. Without hesitation, a student said, (with the others nodding in agreement)
“We always feel safe in our classroom. It is calm. We are relaxed. When we are in there, we don’t think about what else is happening.”
My heart jumped with utter excitement and my head turned immediately toward the teacher in complete admiration of what had been created within the classroom environment. Although we had to still make a plan for eliminating the problems within our common areas, I wanted to yell in celebration of this teacher, “You are a ROCK STAR!!! This is AMAZING and INCREDIBLE!!”
The #BookSnaps below from Principal Kafele’s, The Teacher 50: Critical Questions for Inspiring Classroom Excellence represent who this teacher is and many others are for all students!
As I read and reflect on the powerful impact we have on our students each day, I am truly appreciative of the teams of teachers, principals, and district leaders with whom I have worked with across the country. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to be an educational leader! #JoyfulLeaders
I have been reflecting on my leadership identity since I watched Baruti Kafele’s video.
- Who am I when I walk into my school building?
- How does my school community see me?
- What does my presence mean to my team?
This intense thought-provoking and inspiring video brought a flood of rushing thoughts to my mind.
What is my leadership identity?
- Positively contagious– Continuously sharing the gratefulness that I feel for the opportunity to learn at high levels in a safe and welcoming environment.
- Encouraging– Consistently leading students and staff to believe in themselves as leaders.
- Approachable– Always a safe place to share ideas, fears, challenges, and celebrations.
- Transparent– Invariably leading with the goals of doing anything and everything to guide our students to reach high levels of success.
What do I want my presence to mean to my community?
How do I want students to see me?
Share an authentic smile and be an inspiring force that leads others to see and reach beyond their potential.
What is your leadership identity?
A few weeks ago, the title of this post was revealed to me as a common practice Kevin Geer expects within his organization. The contagious positive emotion a smile creates motivates us to share it and feel it.
The reality of this happening every day in a school setting made my heart burst with excitement and reflection. If a school fosters and maintains a positive culture you should feel the smile when you walk into the building!
Once our students meet their seats, how can we continue student smiles throughout the day? Below are five guidelines:
- SMILE- Show your students that you LOVE having them in your classroom.
- TRUST- Intentionally take time to develop meaningful relationships with a foundation of authentic trust.
- CELEBRATE- Focus on the positive and praise the behaviors you expect.
- COMMUNICATE- Post and explain learning goals guiding students to clearly understand essential standards.
- COLLABORATE- Welcome parents as a part of the student, teacher, and parent team. Bring parents into the classroom everyday by sharing your story.
Below is a great example of what it takes to continue the positive emotion created from the seven initial smiles shared before students meet their seats!
Educational leaders know that with every student success, it took a team to make it happen.
As I reflected on the successful experiences throughout our first trimester, I took a little more time to evaluate our culture of gratitude. We have worked diligently to create opportunities for our students to demonstrate thankfulness and gratefulness for each other and for their teachers; however, consistent opportunities to express collective gratitude within the team of adults who are guiding our students each day was missing.
While listening to an Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast, I was inspired by how, within his organization, he simply and effectively facilitates a culture of gratitude. During staff meetings, he provides notes and time for team members to write short thank you letters to those who have helped them be successful. Upon hearing this, I was excited about the opportunity to apply this practice!
During our monthly staff meeting last week, this was how we began our meeting. Our team was provided with a paper thank you note and time. As our team began to write their notes, some asked for more! The next day, the feedback was even better as team members openly shared their excitement about receiving notes!
Sometimes the only motivation we need to persevere through the challenges of striving to reach goals are a few words of appreciation. Since Zig Ziglar’s quote below proves to be true, this will be a leadership practice that I will continue!
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.
As you move on through the rest of your day, watch the short video below and think about who is on your team. How do you share your appreciation?
With a bright smile on her face, my oldest daughter presented me with a slightly wrinkled and water damaged Self-Assessment paper. As I began to read through her personal reflection, she quickly asked me if I noticed what her teacher wrote. As my eyes moved down to the bottom of the page, I saw it! A powerful sentence that provided specific feedback and motivation for my daughter to continue to strive to meet teacher expectations and standard proficiency.
As educators, we focus on providing students with clear expectations and specific feedback. When I saw the positive impact of these essential practices conveyed in my own child, I was truly thankful for the time her teacher took to facilitate student reflection and to provide specific feedback. Being intentional with our expectations and devoting time to provide feedback to each student is worth the extra effort!
Specific feedback empowers our students to reflect on their current progress and leads the way to continued achievement.
Thank you to all of the educators who devote their efforts to providing specific information that motivates our students to be lifelong learners who desire continued success.
I knew what to do.
As I finally stopped to sit down at my desk to reflect on what had just occurred, the words above continued to be repeated in my mind… I knew what to do, I can’t believe it- I knew what to do.
A student was brought to my office visibly upset due to an incident on the playground. At first the behavior was quiet as the student shared a few angry words about what happened. Then, without warning, unexpected behavior forced its way throughout my office as the student became physically escalated. This usually smiley and quiet student became unreachable. Immediately, I focused on my past experiences of similar situations and the knowledge shared from our incredible school wide behavior team:
- Stop all noise/talking
- Back completely away from the behavior, reducing negative attention
- Allow the student to find a place within the room to cool down
- Know and be okay with the fact that there is more to this behavior and we are not going to solve this problem today
I am grateful for our school behavior experts! This team consists of our school psychologist, student and family advocate, counselor, social worker, mental health worker, and nurse. These highly skilled educators are leading our team to be trauma informed, empathetic and understanding of student behaviors, and to prevent negative behavior. Ultimately, this team is leading our school away from reactive band-aid solutions and towards the implementation of positive behavior interventions.
Our actions have the opportunity to demonstrate a quiet understanding, leading students to begin to trust.
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing-that’s why we recommend it daily. -Zig Ziglar
Are you looking for consistent inspiration? One of my favorite motivators is to listen to podcasts. The episodes I choose provide the foundation for deep reflection on my current leadership practices. These moments of reflection allow me to slow down and plan for personal and professional self-improvement, facilitating a transition to committing to new ideas and positive plans.
My daily goal is to be a consistently transparent and positive leader who inspires others to perform beyond their best expectations. As we move into a new school year, the podcast 413: Hostile takeover of your mind from Ziglar’s True Performance Show inspired me to implement new ideas to make positive leadership contagious! The host of the show, Kevin Miller, (along with an excerpt from Zig) discussed the impressive first sub-four-minute mile world record set by Roger Bannister. Before Roger broke this record, it did not seem possible that someone could run a mile under four minutes… This incredible achievement demonstrated that anything is possible! Learning about this record and the idea of success beyond expectations, the words of my parents echoed in my heart and mind. They told me over and over again that I could do anything I set my mind to- I believed them and I want others to own this same belief!
As educators, we are in the business of inspiring and growing positive leaders. It is our job to show our students anything is possible! At the end of this podcast, Kevin asks, “What is your four-minute mile?” I pass this question onto educators.
- What goal(s) do you have for yourself and for your students as leaders?
- With rigorous curriculum and the high expectations of standard mastery, how will you lead students to believe and know they can achieve high levels of success?
- How will you build relationships with students so they trust you and take risks with their learning?
My four-minute mile goal: Facilitating leadership that guides each one of our school team members and students to see themselves as positive leaders and high achievers.
My current podcast playlist:
Ziglar’s True Performance Show
Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
Hack Learning Podcast
Principal Matters: The School Leader’s Podcast with William D. Parker